The Minnesota Vikings went to New York (where the Minnesota Twins were having their troubles this weekend) and turned things around for Minnesota sports fans with a sound 28-10 win over the New York Giants. The Vikings were the better team in every phase of the game—which is something we said earlier about this team this season, but not last week.
The Vikings offense came out of early hibernation with two 11-play scoring drives to begin the game that put the Vikings up to stay in the first quarter. The defense, meanwhile, was back to its typical bend and almost never break performance. The G-men were outmatched by the Purple.
“We played really well today,” head coach Mike Zimmer told KFAN radio. “It was nice to get the mix of the pass and run in there. The time of possession in the first half was [good]; I think we had 200-some yards to their 90 or something.”
The win raises the Vikings record to 3-2, and with the Chicago Bears losing to the Oakland Raiders in London and the Green Bay Packers playing in Dallas, the Vikings’ prospects in the NFC North could improve some. But it means nothing if they don’t keep it rolling next week hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis.
Kirk Cousins played back to his normal (we hope) ability against the Giants. It was in his numbers (22 of 27 for 306 yards and two touchdowns and no picks—for a 138.6 quarterback rating) and it was in plain sight. Cousins was especially effective outside of the pocket. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski put Cousins on the move early and often with rollouts, play action and all kinds of calls.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Zimmer said. “I thought he did a nice job as far as pulling the trigger today. He moved in the pocket well. We ad some good out-of-the-pocket” things. He hit some nice balls to Diggs and Thielen and the tight ends, too.”
We knew going in that Cousins should have a good game against the sub-par pass defense of the Giants, but the result is a big road win and the continuing of building back the quarterback’s confidence. Hopefully there is no reason for apologies on the radio this week.
The Vikings offensive line had one of their better games of the season, and you need look no further than running back Dalvin Cook to verify it. Cook set a career high with 218 total yards from scrimmage that included 21 rushes for 132 yards and six receptions for 86 yards, and the line gave him some room to roam. Pass protection was better, as Cousins appeared to have plenty of time on a number of throws. Some of that came from getting him out of the pocket (he was sacked three times when staying inside it), but the offensive line (who got right guard Josh Kline back and lost left guard Pat Elflein) deserves decent grades on the game.
“They did a nice job today,” Zimmer said. “We talked about having a firm pocket—that’s important in the passing game—we can’t let guys get around the feet of the quarterback and I think that helped today, too.”
The Vikings defense played more aggressively early on this week with a safety blitz on the first play. They went after rookie quarterback Daniel Jones with some early pressures and hits, but the big Jones got up off the mat. Jones is the real deal, but so is the Vikings defense, which scored a safety after Dalvin Cook fumbled on the one-yard line. They were put in some tough positions throughout the game (some of them of their own making), yet they kept coming up with stops and big plays to keep in command of the game.
The goal line stand after a defensive penalty near the end of the third quarter was particularly huge. Some of the headliners were two sacks by Danielle Hunter, a big game from corner Mike Hughes and a great diving interception to seal the victory by Anthony Barr. Zimmer will likely be happier with this performance by his charges than last week in Chicago.
“We did a nice job rushing the quarterback today,” Zimmer said. “He’s a very slippery guy. He throws the ball very well. But I think we did a very nice job getting him off the spot.”
The passing game got a nice shot in the arm in the Meadowlands. On the day, there were 360 receiving yards, and Stefon Diggs caught the first pass from Cousins (and it didn’t look scripted). Despite only three catches for 44 yards, Diggs should be happy with how the passing game became more of an emphasis and how it went down. Adam Thielen, who had his own complaints this past week, was the big beneficiary with seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdown receptions. He made some phenomenal grabs when Cousins was a little high with the ball and only missed one of his eight targets. Very nice to see the passing game back in the end zone.
Xavier Rhodes had another Xavier Rhodes game—getting beat by a rookie for a touchdown, untimely penalties, injury for a short time and some decent coverage. After he gave up the touchdown, Zimmer gave him a piece of his mind on the sideline. We still don’t have an explanation on why Rhodes game has been down from pervious seasons, but the Vikings will need to continue to rely on him.
The special teams have been fairly decent this season, and kicker Dan Bailey had another nice afternoon. He was four for four on field goals with two extra points and even slowed down the kickoff returner so he could be tackled (on the special teams’ worst play of the game—giving up a 52-yard return). Despite all the ins and outs and changes to the kicking unit in the past few years, the team may finally have found the combination needed to stabilize it. Emphasis on the word “may,” however, since we wouldn’t want to be the ones that jinxes it.
“Dan Bailey, amazing. Wasn’t that nice to see,” Zimmer said.
I am sure the special teams will take that comment.
Should be Ending
Second chances. The penalties reared their ugly head . . . again. Penalties have been a problem for the Vikings this season, and they experienced more (12 for 112 penalty yards) in New York. Horse collar, 12 men on the field, offsides and a few false starts among them. Perhaps the most egregious penalty was Linval Joseph’s hit on the center/long snapper during a field goal try in the first drive of the second half. The Giants, Joseph’s former team, took three points off the board and tried to score a touchdown. The defense came up big and held them to another field goal. Same result, but more wear and tear on the defense.
Un-balanced offense. Last season the Vikings were all pass and little run. This year it has been the opposite—until the Vikings two Pro Bowl wideouts started bellyaching about it. I am not a fan of the crabbing, but I do like the result. The Vikings put up a total of 351 yards of offense in the first half (the second most by any team in a first half this season), and on the game totaled 490 net yards with 279 passing and 211 rushing. That is a benchmark to build upon.
Challenges on pass interference plays. I am not sure it is ever worth it. Very few have been overturned, and, on Sunday, we saw two more that weren’t. Save those red flags for the really big plays, in my opinion.